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Max Scherzer battles for five innings; helps Washington Nationals win the World Series

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Max Scherzer did what he could to keep it close over five innings on the mound in a gutsy performance in Game 7 of the World Series.

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

“The cortisone shot worked,” Max Scherzer told reporters after the Washington Nationals series-extending win in Game 6 of the World Series.

Scherzer was scratched from a scheduled start in Game 5 of the Fall Classic, with what he described at the time as a nerve issue in his neck which left him unable to lift his right arm.

But 48 hours and a cortisone shot later, the 35-year-old, 12-year veteran was cleared to get back on the mound for the final game of the 2019 campaign.

The cortisone shot worked.

“That relieved the pressure on the nerve,” Scherzer said, “and then keep applying heat.

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

“Our chiropractor, he does amazing work, he was able to go in there and make adjustments.”

“We did two treatments of it and really freed up the neck, the C5-C6 area,” he explained, “along with the trap, spasm, really felt like it subsided. And even when I was warming up tonight I felt really good. I’m good to go.”

Davey Martinez was happy to have his ace available, even if he didn’t know how much the veteran starter would be able to give the Nationals.

“He’s going to go,” the second-year skipper said. “And he’s going to pitch. And we’ll see how far he can take us.”

The fact that he was able go at all, considering how he’d looked on Sunday, was something of a minor miracle.

“If you would have saw him Sunday,” Martinez said, “it wasn’t good. He didn’t look good. I wish I could kind of emulate the way he kind of came in...”

Martinez tried to approximate the contorted pose Scherzer was stuck in until his neck did finally loosen up.

“I thought, Oh, boy, he couldn’t move. I think you guys saw him.”

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

“So we tried to plan accordingly,” the manager continued, “and he got the shot. They told him he couldn’t do anything for 24 hours. He listened. He came back and he said he felt good. He threw flat ground. Said he felt real good. Yesterday he got up and threw just to throw in the bullpen. Said he felt great. And then today he says he feels great.

“So testament to him. This guy has been a workhorse. He’s itching to go. He wants to pitch today and he’s excited to pitch today.

“Like I said, he’s ready to go, there’s no limitations, and we’ll see how far he can go.”

“You can assume Max Scherzer is going to come out breathing fire,” Houston Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch said before Game 7.

“But what if they put up a few runs on the Nats’ ace early?

“What happens if we put up three, four, five runs in the first inning? My, how that would change things.”

The two runs the Astros scored on Scherzer in Game 1 came in the first, but he settled in and threw four scoreless before he was done in that outing.

In Game 7, Scherzer gave up a home run by Yuli Gurriel on a 2-1 slider up in the zone inside in the first at bat of the second, and he had to work out of two-on jams in the second, third, and fourth innings, before he failed to get out of one in the fifth.

With two on and two out, Carlos Correa hit a 2-2 slider by third for an RBI single that made it a 2-0 game in the Astros’ favor, and Scherzer was done for the night after that inning, with a total of 103 pitches on the night, just three strikeouts, seven hits, and four walks allowed.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 103 P, 58 S, 4/4 GO/FO.

Though he was not his usually self, Scherzer did what he could to keep it close, and two innings after he was done on the mound, the Nationals rallied to take the lead with both Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick homering, with a solo shot by Rendon, and two-run, go-ahead blast for Kendrick in what ended up a 6-2 win that gave the Nationals the World Series.

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It wasn’t a typical Scherzer start. He generated just 11 swinging strikes, five with his slider, and got 16 called strikes, 11 with his fastball, which sat at 95.6 MPH and got up to 98.

He did what he could to get as far as he did, and his effort was appreciated by everyone in the Nationals’ dugout.

“Hey, Max is a bulldog,” his manager said. “We saw him earlier. His location wasn’t as crisp as he wanted it to be. He fought through some unbelievable innings and he kept us in the ballgame. That’s all we can ask from Max.

“He had 102 pitches. He said, ‘Hey, I’ll give you another inning if you need me.’

“I said, Max, you did a great job, you kept us in the ballgame. We’ll get this, we’ll figure it out. We’re going to win this game.

“But what a fantastic job he did.”

Patrick Corbin tossed three scoreless in relief, and Daniel Hudson locked down the ninth to end it, and the Nationals were the World Series champions when it was done.

“I mean, you know, he’s still popping 97, 98, a good slider,” Stephen Strasburg said when he was asked about Scherzer, after being named the World Series MVP following Game 7.

“But, no, seeing the condition that he was in a few days ago, I think it was definitely out of the ordinary for him. But I knew he was going to go out there and compete and leave it all out there on the field.”

What did what he was able to do on the mound and the World Series win mean to Scherzer?

“It just means I’m part of the greatest team in 2019,” Scherzer told Ken Rosenthal on the field after the game. “These guys, they battled, it didn’t matter.

“It was, ‘Stay in the fight,’ that was our motto, it was the next guy up, everybody gave it their all, whoever — it was always going to produce and we took it all the way and we won the whole thing.”

How did he make it through a tough outing, allowing just the two runs? “Just stay tough,” Scherzer explained. “They’re a great team, great offense, they were grinding me, just tried to make pitches, stay with Yan [Gomes], trust your instincts, and just compete, lay it on the line, just whatever you’ve got to do.”

And physically, how did he come through it?

“I was physically good. The cortisone shot worked, the chiropractic adjustments worked, so I felt good.”